6 tips to get good help from the internet

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A computer has it's place in the shop, but using it properly is key to success. Kyle Smith

The internet has changed the car world forever. It has given us the ability to quickly and easily find experts and resources that would have previously involved hours of research just to find the right place to call, look, or ask. It’s never been easier to pose questions to a large group of people passionate about the same things you are—it’s also never been easier to annoy those folks by asking questions in ways that set everyone up for a frustrating experience.

To save you a little frustration, here are six tips to help you find what you need easily and quickly—and make life easier for anyone who offers their assistance.

Use the search function

Before you go posing a question to the collective hive mind of your favorite Facebook group or specialist forum, use the search function that the vast majority of those sites have. Try multiple wordings to find various posts that might be related to your issue. Doing this simple thing will keep you in good standing with the community.

A second tip: use Google to search your favorite forum by entering “site:” followed by the site and words you are searching. For example, I would use “site:corvaircenter.com front brake squeak” to search the Corvair Center Forums for posts related to front brake squeak. Some forum sites have better searches than others, so this might turn up some results that a site-specific search won’t.

Include specifics

example forum question
A question like this will likely be met with lukewarm response at best. There is not enough detail to really give any guidance beyond general tips. Kyle Smith

The year, make, and model of your vehicle are just a starting point when reaching out to those on the World Wide Web. Things that are obvious to you are unknowns to experts who have never met you or your car. Options, modifications, and previous work can all factor into determining a proper diagnosis or receiving guidance from your fellow enthusiasts. Specific photos of a problem area or part is even better, as it gives one more reference point for those working with you from afar.

Be clear about what you need or want

One question can lead to another easily enough, but you want to be sure that your initial query is pointed enough that anyone reading it understands what you need. This will cut down on a situation where you get a handful of frustrating answers that are correct, but might be something you already know. Folks will see those answers and move on to an unsolved problem rather than spending time with something they feel has already been solved, leaving you without the information you came searching for.

Include a note of what you have (or haven’t) done already

example forum question 2
This has a lot more detail for experts or fellow enthusiasts to sink their teeth into. The quick bulletpoint list allows information to be organized and digested quickly. Kyle Smith

Those on the other end of the internet only have the information you give them, so include as much as you can without rambling. I recommend a bullet point list for this. It allows you to lay out things in order and give quick hits of information. As an example, use bullet points to create a timeline that leads to you asking the question online:

  • Noticed noise coming from front wheel well
  • Disassembled, cleaned, inspected wheel bearings. No issue found so reassembled per shop manual
  • Noise still present on first drive after assembly
  • Car has disc brakes but they are not worn out and currently functioning perfectly
  • What could be causing this noise?

A list like this is short on words  but long on information. It is also easy to read and follow, something that befits the forum world, where text can be small and long paragraphs just turn people away. Short and dense on information is almost always best.

Ask in the right place

While the buy/sell/trade group you are a member of might be filled with marque experts, posting a question about which paint color is correct for your rear differential is likely going to be met with lukewarm response at best. Find the proper place for your question and the response will align with the help you desire.

Post an update

This really has nothing to do with you asking a question and more to do with when you find answer. Even if you didn’t find it by asking in a certain place, post an update to where you did ask with what the solution to your problem was. This does two things: First, it keeps those on the site from persisting in thinking about that issue, and second, it allows the next person who is searching a similar issue to find your question and your solution. Too many times I’ve found someone with the same issue that I’m experiencing, only to have their conversation or thread go cold without any discussion of what the solution was. It’s incredibly frustrating. Save others from this fate if you can.

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